In the last month, a lot has been said about the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the most powerful space telescope ever built. In addition to this record, the observatory also scored the record for development costs: over 11 billion dollars. Let us explain why it was not a “spree.”
The Webb telescope could detect one of the most exciting projects in human history, not only for its exceptional qualities, but also because never before has a space telescope been placed in an orbit so far from Earth: think that
The discoveries that he may make, once he has entered into operation, could be incredibly valuable to probe many still unresolved or indeterminate cosmological arguments. To obtain such a jewel, however, it is logical to imagine that a substantial capital has been invested in order to create the best of the best. Although the intent was precisely that, the JWST eventually came to cost $11.75 billion. A sum of money for some excessive ones, which – as many of you have written to us – could be spent in other fields or on Earth’s problems.
In fact, although this thought may seem altruistic, it is quite wrong, since (as has been said and demonstrated several times) scientific research – in any form – is the most useful it can be for the improvement of the human condition. Of course, you could argue that over ten billion dollars are really a waste, and that perhaps the JWST could reach the same quality targets at a lower cost. We could be right about this, but we must not forget that these values must be carefully contextualized.
If we analyse the years of work, combined with delays of various kinds, and also considering inflation rates, we would find that the Hubble Space Telescope and the JWST have undergone almost the same trend: Hubble cost, with You think that Hubble was initially just predicted as a 400 million project. And it still took 20 years of development before it was launched.
We all know the fame and glory of the Hubble telescope: thanks to him some of the most beautiful and iconic photos of Space have been taken, and it has become the fundamental tool for almost all scientific research on space.
Now we’re going back to the Webb telescope: its power is almost twice as high as Hubble’s, it’s going to analyze its objectives at higher speeds, it’s going to push its observations to the remote corners of the universe All this always got in about 25 years of development, but with practically the same cost.
Ultimately, it is clear how optimization of development has allowed JWST to be a superior tool in all, even in budget management. Ergo, you can’t talk about “sprey.” Could your budget have been slightly lower? It may be, but even subtracting 1 or 2 billion would not have made a big difference, and it is to be considered that the Hubble telescope did not have to face the last two years of development during a world pandemic.
Another thing to consider, of primary importance to tell the truth, is that we are talking about a final cost for practicality, but the real budget has been delayed over 26 years. If we did a simple proportion, we would find that the Webb telescope cost about $420 million each year, that is, less than a third of the normal annual spending of a space agency like NASA.
If it seems to you, however, an exaggerated cost, here is a very interesting fact for you: only in 2021 more than 720 billion dollars were allocated for the U.S. Military Defense.